Potential energy Definition and 206 Discussions

In physics, potential energy is the energy held by an object because of its position relative to other objects, stresses within itself, its electric charge, or other factors.Common types of potential energy include the gravitational potential energy of an object that depends on its mass and its distance from the center of mass of another object, the elastic potential energy of an extended spring, and the electric potential energy of an electric charge in an electric field. The unit for energy in the International System of Units (SI) is the joule, which has the symbol J.
The term potential energy was introduced by the 19th-century Scottish engineer and physicist William Rankine, although it has links to Greek philosopher Aristotle's concept of potentiality. Potential energy is associated with forces that act on a body in a way that the total work done by these forces on the body depends only on the initial and final positions of the body in space. These forces, that are called conservative forces, can be represented at every point in space by vectors expressed as gradients of a certain scalar function called potential.
Since the work of potential forces acting on a body that moves from a start to an end position is determined only by these two positions, and does not depend on the trajectory of the body, there is a function known as potential that can be evaluated at the two positions to determine this work.

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  1. L

    Two charged spheres hitting each other

    Since the forces involved (gravity and electric force) are conservative we can use conservation of energy. The initial energy is ##E_i= k\frac{q_1q_2}{r_0}-G\frac{m^2}{r_0} ## and the final ##E_f=mv^2+k\frac{q_1q_2}{2r}-G\frac{m^2}{2r} ## so from ##E_i=E_f ## we get...
  2. J

    Springs and Potential Energy

    Ki + Ui = Kf + Uf 1/2)kx2 = (1/2)mvf2, but W = (1/2)mvf2 = F∆d, so 1/2)kx^2 = F∆d. The solution says that I should just substitute v as d/t. But could anyone explain why my reasoning is wrong? Thanks.
  3. S

    I Water powered funicular with equal masses?

    I found a paper (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312123871_Introducing_a_Modified_Water_Powered_Funicular_Technology_and_its_Prospective_In_Nepal) where the authors design a funicular system powered by water but with a modification from traditional systems where apparently the funicular...
  4. M

    I Derivation of -dU/dx=F

    Hi, Everyone! This is the page(first image) from Principle of physics by resnik. I want to ask the definition of work(##W=F(x) \Delta x##) by variable force here is somewhat different from the usual integral version. I don't understand how is this valid definition? Secondly, how did they reach...
  5. T

    I Force-potential relationship

    Suppose I have some interaction potential, u(r), between two repelling particles. We will name them particles 1 and 2. I want to find the force vectors F_12 and F_21. Would I be correct in saying that the x-component of F_12 would be given by -du/dx, y-component -du/dy etc? And to find the...
  6. MarkTheQuark

    Spring-mass system with a pendulum using Lagrangian dynamics

    I'm stuck in a problem of a spring mass system with a pendulum attached to it as showed in the figure below: My goal is to find the movement equation for the mass, using Lagrangian dynamics. If the spring moves, the wire will move the same amount. Therefore, we can write the x and y position...
  7. C

    A rocket on a spring, related to potential/kinetic energy

    Part A) So from a force diagram we can see that the only two forces acting in our system are the spring force(positive y axis) and the weight of the rocket(negative y axis), which means the spring force is equal and opposite to the weight force. The weight is simple enough ##12* 9.8=117.6N##...
  8. C

    Power required to climb a 20-m-tall building in 55s

    Summary:: A 90 kg firefighter needs to climb the stairs of a 20-m-tall building while carrying 40kg of gear. How much power does he need to reach the top of the building in 55s. So first the total mass of our system is 130 kg. Using this mass, I found the potential energy the firefighter would...
  9. Dario56

    I Potential Energy of an Electron-Nuclei Interaction in DFT

    In density functional theory (DFT), electron density is a central quantity. Because of this, we want to calculate electron - nuclei potential energy as functional on electron density. If we know how potential energy varies across space, we can calculate this functional with plugging particular...
  10. Dario56

    I Kinetic Energy and Potential Energy of Electrons

    Time indepedendent Schrödinger equation for a system (atom or molecule) consisting of N electrons can be written as (with applying Born - Oppenheimer approximation): $$ [(\sum_{i=1}^N - \frac {h^2} {2m} \nabla _i ^2) + \sum_{i=1}^N V(r_i) + \sum_{i < j}^N U(r_i,r_j)] \Psi = E \Psi $$ Terms in...
  11. S

    Work done on dipole and potential energy in uniform electric field

    I encountered a problem regarding the appropriate sign needed to be taken for the work done on a dipole when it rotates in a uniform electric field and would appreciate some help. The torque on a dipole can be defined as τ=PEsinθ The work done on a dipole to move it from an angle ##\theta_0##...
  12. Iwanttolearnphysics

    About KE and PE of a stone falling down a tube filled with oil

    This question does not have numbers, so I'm stumped. Here's my thinking. (I), the gain in KE is less than the loss in GPE is correct according to the key, but I think I don't understand this conceptually. Can you ask me questions to make me think about this a bit more? I can't even form...
  13. san12345

    Spring potential and kinetic energy

    please help me
  14. F

    Potential Energy of three charged particles

    I set up an equation for the sum of all the potential energies and when cancelling out ##k## and ##q^2##, I got ##\frac{1}{0.05}-\frac{1}{x}-\frac{1}{0.05-x}=0##. However, this has no solutions, so I must've gone wrong somewhere. Could someone just give me a hint, not a solution, that would put...
  15. T

    Exponential potential energy state diagram

    It is my second "energy state diagram problem" and I would want to know if I am thinking correctly. First I have done some function analysis to get a glimpse of the plot: - no roots but ##\lim\limits_{x\to-\infty}U(x)=\lim\limits_{x\to+\infty}U(x)=0## - y interception: ##U(0)=-U_0## - even...
  16. Anmoldeep

    I Work Done in Changing Shape of Current Carrying Loop

    How would you go about calculating the work done in morphing a square current-carrying loop into a circular current-carrying loop, without change in length while maintaining the same angular orientation with an external magnetic field. My book suggests defining P(potential energy) = M.B (dot...
  17. Ebi Rogha

    B Energy-mass equivalence

    a) Can we convert energy to mass (matter) in every day life? b) When we charge a phone battery, its mass (weight) increases according to E=mc2 . Does it mean we convert energy to matter? If not, how its mass increases?
  18. J

    Using Orbital Energy to Calculate Velocity

    So what I did first was calculate the initial and final potential energies with Epi=-9.433*10^11 m and Epf = -1.503*10^12 m. Then I found change in potential energy, -5.597*10^11 m. Using this I determined the change in kinetic energy, 5.597*10^11. I then added this change to the initial...
  19. K

    Magnetic Potential Energy?

    Recently I have encountered the following expression for the potential energy of a magnetic dipole of moment ##\boldsymbol{\mu}## placed in an external magnetostatic field B: $$U=-\boldsymbol{\mu} \cdot \textbf{B}$$. However, I was told that magnetic fields are non-conservative, so we can't...
  20. rufusbufus

    Calculating the energy created by a bike pump that feeds a turbine

    Summary:: I have an assignment that is looking at how a bicycle pump is used to push air through a turbine to generate energy. I need to determine the energy input and energy created. I'm hoping I can get some direction on where to start. The concept is straightforward. A bicycle pump of...
  21. P

    Case when the potential energy of the 1st excited state is zero

    I know how to solve this problem when the energy at ground state is zero but I don't know how to deal with 1st excited state energy as zero. According to me since the potential energy is zero therefore the kinetic energy must be 13.6eV according to conservation of energy. I also know that the...
  22. A

    Potential energy of a system of two punctual charges along the X axis

    I have not clear how to solve this problem. Here it is my attempt at a solution: Let the charge at ##-a## be the number one and the one at ##+a## the number two. the potential energy of the punctual charge ##-Q## due to each charge +Q will be then ##E_{pi}=-k \frac{Q^2}{r_i}##, whit ##r_i## the...
  23. I

    Physics momentum problem -- Collision between 2 blocks that stick together

    So far I found the answer for a and b, but when I attempted to do the other ones I was completely lost. A.) P= MV M = 25g = .025kg V = 18 .025 * 18 = .45kg*m/s B.) KE= 1/2 mv^2 1/2 (.025)(18)^2 4.05 J
  24. A

    Energy conservation for objects hanging from a pulley

    I have some conceptual questions about this task. In order to get the correct result (I checked the textbook answer) in part (a) I had to assume that the speed for each block is the same at all instants. And that if one block moves down x meters, the other one will move up that same amount of...
  25. N

    Potential energy and a spring

  26. C

    Why Potential Energy cannot be included twice?

    If for example I have two charged particles q_1 , q_2 with distance 'r' between them, then: The potential energy that results from particle q_1 exerting force on particle q_2 is $$ k\frac{q_1 q_2}{r} $$ If I do the same process for particle q_2: The potential energy that results...
  27. n3pix

    What does this mean ##U=\int F\times d\vec{r}## in the Work-Energy Theorem?

    Hello, I'm newly discovering the world of the Energy. My question is about the equation ##U=\int \vec{F}\times d\vec{r}=-\int \vec{F}_{s}\times d\vec{r}##. Can you tell me what does this equation means? Thanks!
  28. peguerosdc

    How to relate the gravitational potential energy zero to the axes?

    (Throughout all my post, I will refer to “gravitational potential energy” just as “potential energy”) Hi! I have this confusion about when is potential energy positive/negative and how it is related to how we define our axes. I think it is easier to understand my confusion with the following...
  29. L

    Man jumping onto a see-saw to launch bricks vertically

    I drew a diagram for the a) part The person is h meters high So GPE= 100 x 9.8x h GPE= 980h j KE = 980h when the person hits the see saw KE=1/2mv² 980h=0.5 x 5 x v² Now it v²=u²+2as For the brick going up to 10m v = 0 u=? a=-9.8ms-² s=10m u²=2 x 9.8 x 10 u=14m/s We can assume that u=14m/s is...
  30. J

    Understanding the derivation for Elastic Potential Energy.

    Elastic Potential Energy of a Strained Body (A) Using ## Y = \frac {stress}{strain}## we get ##F = \frac {AY}{L} * x## where ##F## is the restoring force, ##x## is the distance the body is stretched by. Since Work = PE (spring force/ stress is conservative?) Thus ##W = \int_{0}^{x} \frac...
  31. Harperchisari

    The energy conservation issue with parallel charged plates with a hole.

    A while back I thought of an issue with parallel charged plates. Imagine this: a set of opposite charged resistive plates with holes in the center. In theory, there is a finite amount of energy required to push a positive charged particle through the hole in the positive plate (in theory it...
  32. Gursimran Singh

    Potential energy of a shell and a disc, both covered uniformly with charge

    Double integration maybe?? I calculated potential due to shell on plate's center but not on other points on it's surface.
  33. M

    Force on a pin from a pendulum and a string

    1. Determine the velocity of the ball when it is 30degrees from the horizontal: U1 = mgh = mg(0.8m) U2 = mgh = mg(0.4+0.4cos(30)) = mg(.74641) ΔU = U2 - U1 = mg(.74641 - .8) = mg(-0.051433) T1 =0 T2 = 0.5mv^2 ΔT = T2 - T1 = 0.5mv^2 ΔU = ΔT mg(-0.051433) = 0.5mv^2 ====> v = 1.025394 2. Use...
  34. M

    How far does the block slide? (work, spring, incline)

    Homework Statement The system is released from rest with no slack in the cable and with the spring stretched 225 mm. Determine the distance s traveled by the 3.2-kg cart before it comes to rest (a) if m approaches zero and (b) if m = 2.5 kg. Assume no mechanical interference and no friction...
  35. L

    Potential Energy and Potential -- Systems versus Particles

    When I first learned about these subjects, I did what was intuitive to me and treated particles as if they carried potential energy. I would do this similarly for rigid bodies where I would also treat them as a particles with their body's mass at the center of mass. This wasn't helped by...
  36. S

    I Relativistic mass and gravitational potential

    Hello everyone, Any object has a gravitational potential energy as a function of the distance from the Earth (R). Does this energy depend only on the rest mass of the object; or one must take into account it's relativistic mass? In other words, if we imagine two identical bullets on the top...
  37. Bheshaj

    Potential energy

    Can someone please explain me the concept of potential energy correctly and in detail.
  38. hilbert2

    Delta potential in classical mechanics

    In quantum mechanics, there exist some systems where the potential energy of some particle is a Dirac delta function of position: ##V(x) = A\delta (x-x_0 )##, where ##A## is a constant with proper dimensions. Is there any classical mechanics application of this? It would seem that if I...
  39. navneet9431

    Does the Potential Energy increase during Chemical Bonding?

    Hi All, The Potential Energy for two chemically bonding atoms is defined by ,U=1/2(k*q1*q2)/r So it means that when the atoms approach each other then, their Potential Energy will increase. Where am I doing wrong? I will be thankful for help!
  40. Potential Energy of a Particle | Work done by Conservative Forces

    Potential Energy of a Particle | Work done by Conservative Forces

    What is a conservative force and how do you determine the work done by it. It is an interesting relation between the work done by such a force and the potential energy and kinetic energy of a particle.
  41. Benjamin Fogiel

    A rocket burns out at an altitude h above the Earth's surface

    Homework Statement A rocket burns out at an altitude h above the Earth's surface. Its speed v0 at burnout exceeds the escape speed vesc appropriate to the burnout altitude. Show that the speed v of the rocket very far from the Earth is given by v=(v02-v2esc)1/2 Homework Equations KEf-KEi=Ui-Uf...
  42. cianfa72

    Potential Energy for "stone + field" physical system

    Consider the classical scenario a stone falling in the Earth gravitational field. Classically we attach a Potential Energy to the stone and using the law of conservation of (mechanical) energy we are able to evaluate the dynamic of the falling stone. This model assume a stone in a "external"...
  43. J

    Moving down a ramp

    Homework Statement Please look at the problem attached as a screenshot. Homework Equations Assuming frictionless, Ei = Ef, which means objects that are the same will end up in the same heights (so we can group A&C, B&D, and E&F). For A&C and E&F, mgh = KE_rot + KE_trans For B&D, it is mgh...
  44. J

    Do A and C have same or different KE at the end?

    Homework Statement Please look at the attached screenshot. Homework Equations Assuming the ramp is frictionless, Ei = Ef and thus mgh = KE ( = 1/2mv^2, which isn't really necessary here) The Attempt at a Solution I'm okay with all other examples except for A and C. From the answer template...
  45. J

    Speed or turning point using energy

    Homework Statement Please look at the attached screenshot. This problem is really confusing for me and I can't seem to make much sense out of it. Homework Equations Ei = Ef The Attempt at a Solution As you can see, I did get (a). (The other checkmarks, I guessed — there were only two...
  46. Hawkingo

    B Calculating the P.E. of a system

    Let, we want to calculate the P.E(potential energy) of a system containing 3particles p1,p2,p3.the point of observation is P.so now we should add up the P.E at P due to p1,p2,p3 to get the net potential energy of the system,but why we take the P.E of particles due to each other into count...
  47. A

    How much work needs to be done on a piano to move it into the bed of a truck?

    Homework Statement Movers must push a piano onto a truck, the bed of which is a height 1.35 m above the ground. To do this they will use a frictionless ramp. If the piano has a mass of 1806.0 kg and the movers push it up the slope at a constant velocity, how much work do they need to do on it...
  48. zachx

    2 Different Ways to Write Potential Energy of a Pendulum

    I have been doing pendulum problems lately, and I have found 2 different formulations for potential energy of a pendulum. U=mgl(1-cos(Θ)) and U=-mglcos(Θ) The first says U=0 when Θ=0 (at the bottom). The second has U=0 when Θ=π/2 (halfway to the top). Both give the same equation of motion...
  49. V

    Problem in understaning potential energy

    Homework Statement If we lift a block with constant velocity, by applying a force mg upwards, is the work done zero? Homework Equations The Attempt at a Solution The work done must be zero as the resultant force is zero, what I don't understand is how does the block get potential energy if...
  50. A

    Do electromagnetic waves have potential and kinetic energy

    Do electromagnetic waves have potential and kinetic energy like springs, strings, etc. If so how are they calculated, inter-related? What is the total energy? Are the energies fluctuating over time? I am a physics hobbyist so generally the first answers should come with the least mathematics...